Portland Looks to Be Rejoining Rose Quarter Freeway Project 

Experts say that the votes may be in favor of the city of Portland to sign back on to the I-5 freeway project. The Portland Medium has run stories about the involvement of a Black contractor (Raimore Construction company) as a prime contractor on the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. City commissioners are expected to vote on reestablishing the city’s formal involvement.

A number of things happened and the city decided to disengage. Some of it had to do with a back and forth over cover designs. There was an environmental assessment issue. Also, the Lower Albina area is a historically Black neighborhood that was cut in two by the highway decades ago. 

The City listened to one of its allies associated with the Albina neighborhood who thought the state was not doing enough to listen to them in how to reconnect that community. Those supporting economic revitalization of the community through Black living wage jobs and Blacks getting contracts thought otherwise.

City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is in charge of Portland’s Transportation Bureau. She told the media she was approaching the project with cautious optimism. Gov. Kate Brown and ODOT adopted a design featuring more robust freeway covers that the city and its allies wanted.

The city council will be including language in their vote agreement to withdraw if ODOT changes the most important points. However, the new freeway cover design will raise the projected cost to between $1.18 billion and $1.25 billion. 

The Oregon Legislature has committed between $500 million and $700 million. Some remember Biden’s visit to the state recently. Oregon can get federal funds from the $1 trillion infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year. Good thing because at a January Transportation meeting, ODOT staff said they were at least $500 million short of the budget needed to complete the project. 

Construction is supposed to start by the end of next year. The discussion and vote by City commissioners of the return to the freeway project will take place at the end of this June.